Liberals to give boost to minimum wage
By Anton Vidgen
A campaign promise made by the Ontario Liberal government
to raise the minimum wage is rumoured to be included in tomorrow’s
throne speech, which would effectively clear its way for implementation.
“It is my understanding that the government is committed
to increasing the general minimum wage from $6.85 to $8 an
hour,” said Belinda Sutton, a spokesperson for the Ontario
Ministry of Labour.
However, critics were divided as to whether the increase will
actually benefit the economy and how students fit into the
Gerry Mcartney, general manager of the London Chamber of Commerce,
said the increase will have a “dramatic” effect
on the province’s economy.
“[A wage increase] does have a debilitating effect on
small businesses,” Mcartney said, adding wage earners
who previously received $8 an hour might now demand a higher
rate. “It’s a wage increase for the entire province,
not just minimum wage earners.” The minimum wage rate
should be based on the average rate of the province’s
competitors, such as the provinces and states Ontario trades
with, he said.
Mcartney added the government’s plan to phase the increase
in over four years is commendable, as it will allow small businesses
to include it in their financial planning. “It’s
pleasant to see the government looking at the effect on small
businesses,” he said. “It allows small businesses
to budget for it.”
Sarah Blackstock, a spokesperson for the Income Security Advocacy
Centre, one of the member organizations of the Ontario Needs
A Raise Campaign, said she was disappointed the government
was not taking bigger steps.
“We’re glad that the premier has recognized his
responsibility,” she said. “However a raise to
$8 an hour is far from adequate.”
Blackstock said the poverty line in Ontario $10 an hour and
many Ontarians are struggling to even meet that. She took further
issue with the implementation of the minimum wage increase,
saying the increase is needed immediately and not over four
“Many students are living well below the poverty line,” she
“Cost of living to students is an issue,” said
Adam Spence, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate
Student Alliance. “Even if minimum wage was increased,
students will still find themselves in financial difficulty.”
Spence said financial aid, which the government has said it
plans to restructure, is inadequate to meet students’ needs.
Moreover, the wage increase could potentially affect the Ontario
Student Assistance Program, he said.
The minimum wage has been frozen at $6.85 an hour since 1995.